Not Cooking

It’s amazing what you can do if you don’t spend time cooking. For the last three days rather than making pies or stewing tomatoes I have been in my sweat shop sewing some Christmas presents. It has been so productive to just work away at the sewing machine, something I should have done earlier in the year. The garden wall kept me too busy to be making Christmas presents, so the lack of Thanksgiving prep gave me some much needed time.

Instead of making rolls for thanksgiving, I was watching the Great British Bake off while I sewed. It was the perfect way to feel like I was cooking without any of the work.

I was not the only one who decided not to cook this year. Amy Tournquist’s parking lot at Sage and Swift was hopping as so many people pulled in to pick up their Turkey dinners. I was thrilled for Amy to have so many happy customers. We may not get to be at big tables with our families, but at least we can have yummy things to eat without any of the work.

I did not get a cooked Turkey as I still prefer to roast mine and eat it hot and fresh from the oven, but Amy did all the prep and it is ready to pop in oven already seasoned and ready to go. I think that cooking the Turkey qualifies as cooking something even though it is the easiest thing to cook.

So Happy Thanksgiving to all you friends. I hope you have a calm and simple day tomorrow. That is something we all can be thankful for. At least if it is just me and Russ we don’t have to wear masks at home alone and we can eat in the dining room, with Carter on Zoom eating her Thanksgiving she is cooking herself. We may not be in the same room, but we will be together for dinner.


WARNING: NC is Alerting You to Stay Home

Historically I try and not visit a grocery store this week as I usually find them full of amateurs. You know, the husbands who have been sent to the store to pick up one strange ingredient they have no idea where to find, let alone what it even looks like. Or the newly home from college student who wanders the aisles with all the time in the world blocking power shoppers like me from sprinting through our shopping. Or the mother with her children out of school in tow just trying to keep superfluous items out of her cart.

Since I am not cooking for Thanksgiving I did not do my big Turkey shopping last week and have not been cooking one item each day for the last week. Russ and I are getting our Thanksgiving from Sage and Swift. This is first time in our marriage that I have not cooked anything, except for may be our first Thanksgiving when we went to his parents for Turkey day. Given what we were served I think I had to cook after the Turkey meal when I got home so we could have something good to eat.

As I did not shop last week I realized that I needed to buy a few fruits and vegetable today to carry us through the holiday. I broke down and went to Trader Joe’s this morning. Thankfully with the vetting of the number of customers allowed in the store at the same time it did not matter if there were too many armatures, except for the one woman who kept wandering the store with her cart going against the stream of shoppers.

As I was standing by the bananas both my watch and phone started blaring a terrible warning sound. I heard the same sound coming from every phone on every person in the store. I looked at my watch and saw the words “Public Safety Alert.” I was worried something like a plane crash had happened. I put on my glasses so I could see the text.

Covid 19 warning was what everyone had received all at once. It was the very first alert of its kind I had gotten. I was worried that it was alerting me that someone in the store had Covid. Thankfully it was not. I finished my shopping and heeded the warning and went home.

Then I got the same warning again late this afternoon. North Carolina is serious about us trying to reduce our Covid numbers. I hope that people listen. Don’t send any armatures to the store. If your normal Thanksgiving provision gathering happens by going back to the store a dozen times in two days, try and make a list an only go once. If you have a college student home, ask them what they want to eat and buy all their favorite foods for them when you do your shopping and if you are a mother with little kids, ask someone else to pick up your groceries so you don’t have to drag extra little people to the store.

Even better, order take out for your Thanksgiving. You can pick it up tomorrow and not have to go to the store at all.


The Drip, Drip, Drip of Christmas

In a normal year Christmas throws up at our house the weekend after Thanksgiving. It is an all out assault. 46 hinged crates come down from the attic all at once. The tree is assembled with lots of swearing. Non-Christmas decorative items get packed away in the attic to make room for the glass village, snowmen display, various Santa’s and general holiday cheer. I work fourteen plus hours those days to get it all done. It is exhausting, but needs to be completed to make room for the entertaining preparations for the no less than six events we hold at our house in the month of December.

This year I am really enjoying doing the Christmas decorating bit-by-bit. The tree was up last weekend. With the new tree we have new tree technology, mainly in the remote control for the lights. Russ got his hands on the remote and discovered that with the press of a button he can change my tasteful white lights to multi-colored lights. He declared that the colors are pure “northeast Philly.” So we have been toggling the colors on and off to feel like we are traveling, while still staying home. For the record I don’t ever need to go to northeast Philly.

Yesterday I spent a leisurely two hours putting up the needlepoint garland. I was exhausted after doing it and couldn’t imagine doing more decorating after I finished, like I do in a regular year.

So now I am enjoying a few days revisiting all my needlepointing before I move on to the rest of the house decorations. After I am done there will be no parties to cook for, no guests to have over, just Russ and I wandering the house sitting in rooms we usually don’t even use just so we can enjoy the Christmas decorations.

It’s a different year, but honestly it is an easier year. I don’t think I can convince Russ to let me put Christmas up before Thanksgiving normally and certainly Carter would object. For now I am just going to revel in the shiny and bright.


Inspired by a Friend’s Humanity

Last year I reconnected with a high school friend on Facebook. I had not seen her since she graduated the year before me. I haven’t spoken with her or seen her, just read her posts.

She lives on a small island in Maine and day before yesterday I read this that she posted:

We are now a solid 8 months into this. If you are not working/not getting a paycheck/struggling to make ends meet and run out of food or necessities…please don’t let yourself or your kids go to sleep cold or with an empty stomach. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to send me a private message. I am more than happy to help you and your family out. I will drop and go, or order for delivery. No one has to know and I will pretend it never happened. What’s understood never has to be explained. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. If you need anything for a family dinner or anything at all, message me. Stays private.

What humanity. I knew she was an extraordinary person in high school and was kind then, but this is beyond kindness.

She inspires me and I wanted to share her generosity with others incase it inspires you. We have had a horrific year, but many of us have not had to face homelessness or hunger along with all the depression those bring on.

Reaching out to those around you and just letting them know you are there might be just the thing someone needs. I am here for you if you need me. I thank Dinah for reminding me that it is our responsibility to care for those around us.


Leaning in on Veggies

Now that the stress of the election is over it’s time to get back to healthier eating. Following the lead of the others in my house I am not eating any red meat. That really isn’t much of a change, so I am trying to eat more vegan options.

This morning Russ suggested we get take out from Rose’s in Downtown Durham. Rose’s started out as Rose’s meats and sweets, a strange combination of butcher and baker. They took the meat out and morphed into a noodle house/bakery when they had great success with their Raman’s at lunch.

So Russ and I ordered a vegan Raman and I got a winter squash salad and Russ got a vegan steamed bun. If I tell you it was all so yummy I am holding back. It was fantastic. We each ate half of our dinner so we could save it to have again tomorrow.

Shay was not too happy that we didn’t have anything on our plates she wanted, but thankfully we still have chicken for her.

I am not giving up chicken or fish, but I will try and cut way down on cheese. If only my garden could produce in the winter it would make eating vegan heavy much easier.


Is Your Toothpaste Tube Safe?

In our house we all have our own personal tubes of tooth paste since we all brush our teeth in our own bathrooms. As I was squeezing my squirt of paste across my bristles I got to thinking about how gross our toothpaste was a kid. In our very old house we had very few bathrooms, none that could be considered luxurious by any stretch of the imagination. I shared the worst bathroom with my two sisters. We had one tiny sink where our tooth brushes all lay on the laminate covered counter with one usually well squeezed tube of Crest tooth paste.

It never seemed to matter how old the tooth paste was, it was always squeezed in the middle. Back in the sixties toothpaste tubes were a kind of bendable metal and once you mashed the middle up it was hard to squeeze the tooth paste from the far end to the cap opening. We never learned, we squeezed the middle first every time.

Putting the cap on the tooth paste was also something we were not good at. Given the nine years age difference it would be a lifetime before that was a skill we all had. So when you came in at bedtime there was a better than fifty-fifty shot that there would be some caked paste seal on the end and you had to squeeze extra hard to give enough pressure to break through the tough hardened paste.

One thing for sure was we all dragged our own tooth brushes against the end of the cap while we were trying to catch the paste as it came out. Now that I live in a Covid world and look at everything in terms of what their potential viral load might be, I look at shared tooth paste tubes as a ground zero for spreading germs.

I am thankful that in our house we all have always had our own tooth paste, but I think it was a proximity issue rather than a cleanliness one. I am wondering how many of you shared tooth paste with your siblings? If you have a house full of children now do they each have their own toothpaste? If they share a bathroom even if they have their own tubes do they not accidentally use someone else’s?

Seems like tooth paste manufacturers should make a place on the tube to write you name. Perhaps we could cut down on the sharing of the common cold if everyone had their own tooth paste. Maybe I have this all wrong. I have never heard of people sharing toothpaste being singled out for transmission of anything. If it had I am certain that the marketing departments at Crest and Colgate would tell us to buy a tube for every member of the house. Or perhaps they don’t want to imply that germs could live on the tube. Someone please tell me the answer to my questions about the cleanliness of our toothpaste.


I Know It’s Early

It may be a whole week before Thanksgiving, but 2020 Thanksgiving is not going to be much this year. So I threw out the rule of no Christmas before Thanksgiving and I put up my tree. The need to get the coffin sized box out of my front hallway had something to do with it, but my love of decorating my Christmas tree was the overwhelming reason.

Despite being a slightly smaller tree than my old one it still took me half of yesterday and half of today to decorate it. I did cull some unloved ornaments from the rotation, but saved a couple spots for new ornaments to come during this season.

With darkness descending on us at four-fifty the glow from the tree adds needed light to our evenings. We spend more time in our big room during Christmas than any other time of the year and that is all tree related. Sadly there will be no needlepoint Christmas exchange or garden club auction or Chinese auction so that friends come over and enjoy my Christmas decorating.

I may have to do a Zoom tour of Christmas just so I can see everyone’s trees. There is nothing I like more than Looking at people’s decorations and having them tell me stories about where they came from and which ones are their favorites.

Send me a picture of your tree when you put yours up. I know it might not be for a couple of weeks. Most of you are not as crazy as me. For the record, I have not out any other decorations up, not even my needlepoint garland. Maybe this weekend.

On a different note, this afternoon my friend Christy and I were going out on a walk to get our needed vitamin D. There was a big black suburban parked by the end of my driveway I did not recognize. Christy said it wasn’t there when he pulled in my driveway three minutes before. Then a friend, Anita, came out from behind the car and said she left me a little surprise. We talked a few minutes and she got in her car and Christy and I went on our walk.

As we walked away I said, “I wonder what the surprise is? I hope it’s some chicken poop for my compost.” Anita keeps chickens. When we got home we walked down the driveway. I didn’t see any poop. Christy looked in my mailbox and only saw mail. Then I saw something fluttering and looked up and found a gold star balloon tied to my garden. What a cute friend! Thanks Anita.


Introducing YOUZEY

When Covid hit my brilliant sister Janet was unsure how her business would fare. She mostly makes gift boxed beauty sets for department store and with the world shut down she did not know what the Christmas orders from retailers would be like. She is a small woman owned business who employees almost all women whose families are dependent on Janet’s business.

So what did Janet do, but pivot. She and her partner Sophie, created a new online accessory business. As Janet has so many contacts in the manufacturing world, who were also worried about where they could sell their products it was the perfect marriage. So I’d like to introduce you to YOUZEY.com.

It is a fun site of perfect stocking stuffers and fun gifts for the young people in your life or the fashion forward young at heart. You can join Club Youzey and get free shipping.

One of the products Janet has sold for years is the Travelo fragrance atomizers. If you ever wanted to take a small amount of your at home perfume with you on the go this is the thing to get. It uses special technology that allows you to fill your Travelo with the atomizer of your at home bottle of perfume. The fanciest one is the Travelo Milano, which makes a lovely gift for your most discerning friend.

There are a ton of cute Watches and jewelry. And fun things like fake fur cuffs to change up the look of your old plain coat, if just for the night.

Take a look at the site and join Club Youzey. I can’t wait to hear what you like. Janet is sure to be adding new products all the time as she is chomping at the bit to get back on the road in search of the next fun accessory.

youzey.com


Good Grooming At Last

Before the Pandemic hit our regular dog groomer changed professions. Then, we didn’t want to leave the house. That left us with the home grooming options. We bought clippers and Carter spent a good three hours washing and cutting Shay one day in June. She did a good job, but three hours…

After Carter went back to Boston it was back to my grooming. I was already busy taking care of trimming Russ’ beard and hair. He is so much more obedient than Shay. I knew Shay needed a real haircut.

A neighbor who also has labradoodles had a mobile grooming truck in her driveway one day. I asked her if she liked them. “Yes, but expensive.” At this point I had already saved a fortune in grooming or lack of grooming so I called. It took a few weeks to get an opening but today was the day.

When the door bell rang, Shay ran and opened it, a new trick she has learned. She was out on the front porch greeting Jeffery her new hairdresser. I walked with them down to the driveway where his Mercedes Sprinter van grooming truck sat. Shay was not too sure about getting in, but I assured her by having her pose for her before photo and taking a picture of the license plate in case Jeffery decided that Shay was a keeper.

Two hours after entering the van a fluffy “Steiff Like stuffed animal” sweet Shay emerged. She pranced around the house, showing off her new look. Jeffrey reported her good behavior, but dislike for the hairdryer. This was something I already knew. Groomers should get the silent Dyson hair dryers, especially if they have Mercedes Vans.

So now we have a full on princess back in the house. It’s amazing what a real haircut will do for you.


What I Have to Show For Covid

On August 16 I weed whacked what was left of my summer vegetable garden after the bunnies and the deer had turned it into their personal smorgasbord. For the past 25 years I have fought with wildlife, droughts and bad soil over my vegetable garden. I decided I had enough and wanted to control my own space.

I spent the next month scouring Pintrest and Fine Gardening and talking to friends, like Christiania who had put in raised beds this years. I came up with a plan. It was going to be hard, expensive but in the end beautiful. I decided most of the work I could do myself. I knew I needed help with the fence because it needed four hands so I talked to a friend from Church and he said he could help with that.

I went to work. Clearing the ground, buying the blocks, building the retaining wall which was over forty linear feet four feet high. When a section of wall fell In because I had not backfilled it fast enough I did not get discouraged. I had too much in this project. I had to keep moving forward.

I started the building on September 13 and finished today, November 16. I worked almost every non-rainy day. I laid 512 twenty one pound bricks, I shoveled 28 yards of clay as my fill, with the help of David we built a 15 by 25 foot deer and bunny proof enclosure, I built 11 cedar raised beds, I built an underground irrigation system to each bed, I filled those beds with six yards of garden soil, I covered all the garden pathways with card board and four inches of pine bark nuggets. Now I can rest until spring.

Of course there will be tree branches to trim so sun hits the right places and plants diagrams to draw and seeds to start. I wait with baited breath to see if my output improves.


Ultimate Recycling

This is the giant box my Christmas tree came in. It was a work of art. I was instructed to cut it open on one corner. From there I unfolded multiple layers of thick card board to uncover the bagged tree ready to be rolled out of the box once I cut the straps holding it in place.

Instructions on the box asked me to please thoughtfully recycle to box. Hooray! I had the perfect job for all that cardboard. So I spent a good hour cutting the box down. It had many layers, some thicker and some thinner. I dragged the huge pieces out to the garden where the parts of that one box covered every inch of the pathways between the raised beds.

Apparently cardboard under wood nuggets is the best way to prevent weeds from growing in my garden paths. So I covered the whole place and will purchase the nuggets to be spread tomorrow. This will complete my project for the winter.

I think I can safely say that I have recycled that box in the best way possible. No fuel was used to move it and it will break down overtime in my garden, eventually turning into soil. Until then it will act as weed blocker. A win-win for me. I know you will be glad when I stop writing about this project.


Ten Minute Tree

Last Christmas I made the decision to retire our giant Christmas tree. It was an eight section behemoth that took a toll on our family relationships when we put it up and took it down. Little did I know when I made the three trips to the dump that 2020 was not going to be the best year to purchase a new tree.

Sadly, the company that I bought my tree from stopped selling trees retail and began making them for Balsam Hill. This meant my new tree was going to be double the price. Like I did a decade ago, I ordered the branch sample box from the company so I could pick out a tree that had the most realistic branches and color I was looking for.

As I shopped for trees I decided to go with one that was two feet shorter then my old tree. Spending my life going up and down the ladder and placing ornaments with uber long tongs was a younger woman’s job. Since I was getting a slightly shorter tree I could get one that was the newest flip technology. That meant the tree was permanently attached to the rolling stand and when I went to assemble it I flipped the tree over and added only two more sections, rather than the seven I used to.

Last week a coffin sized box arrived via FedEx. The nice delivery man actually got it into the house for me where it stood in the hall for five days. Since I didn’t want to have the box though Thanksgiving I decided that it was perfectly OK to put the tree up today. Russ and I are having a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with just the two of us. Why not decorate for Christmas really early.

Russ helped me build a beautiful cedar box for the tree to stand on. This way our train can be put up around the tree easily. Then we lifted the first section on the box. Flipping it was easy. Russ added the next two sections, where they plugged together so the lights came on automatically. It took less than ten minutes to put the whole thing together as opposed to the hours for our old tree. Now I am fluffing the branches. Since it is a brand new tree the fluffing will take a little while, but as it is November 14 there is no rush.

Christmas is coming early here. Lord knows we can use the spirit.

It will look a lot better when I fluff all the branches

The Best Medicine

Today was my annual visit with my GYN. I go to a woman who took over from my OB/GYN who delivered Carter and was my doctor for over twenty years. Since I don’t have a lot of need for visiting her I don’t have the same relationship with her as I did with my old guy. I think I have seen her four times in four years.

The worst part about going to any doctor is weighing in, but this year with Covid the nurse said nobody is getting scolded. Thankfully my weight was less than last year, but not as good as it was in March. My “new” doctor spent a lot of time with me considering everything short of the blood work which is not back yet was great.

We talked about life and she expressed an interest in doing some work for my Food Bank. After she commented on my strong core muscles I showed her a picture of my garden project and she said that was the healthiest thing she had seen during Covid. I was happy she thought my muscles were improved.

After a good check up and really nice visit she asked if she could give me a hug. It has been so long since I have hugged anyone besides my husband. She said with out masks on it was safe. It was the best medicine. A hug. The thing we all need, but can’t ask for or shouldn’t.

It was the best trip to the doctor I think I have ever had.


Childhood Murder of Brussels Sprout

As a child there was a no more despised vegetable in our house than Brussels spouts. They would arrive in our freezer in small frozen boxes and when my mother would dare to prepare them they would be boiled to death and slathered in butter and sour cream. Now don’t get me wrong, butter and sour cream almost could improve anything. Anything, but the poor limp Brussel. The smell would reek up the whole house.

My sisters and I would have that smell preview of what was surly going to be a horrible dinner. We would drag ourselves to dinner where we usually ate without adults since my father did not get hone until we were in or almost in bed. The no adult thing was the only good part on Brussels nights. This meant that I could put a sprout in my mouth and then pretend to wipe my mouth and deposit the sphere into my paper napkin. This trick only worked if you had one or two on your plate. Once you got two I your napkin you could pull off keeping them there while trying to spit a third into it. If a sister caught me not eating my sprouts there was sure to be tatle telling.

Then there was the move of bringing your plate and sprout filled napkin to the garbage to scrape before putting the plate in the dish washer. You had to make sure there was some other food that you could use to cover your napkin in the garbage. It was fine in my family not to eat your potato, but you had to finish your green vegetable. The threat was you would not be able to poop if you didn’t. (The follow up to that lie is for another day.)

Sadly, because of these early exposures to poor Brussels sprout preparation I went years steering clear of them. It was not until I was much older and ate a roasted sprout did I discover that I had been exposed to a murder of sprouts as a child.

Thankfully Russ loves my roasted sprouts and we can enjoy them fully without the need for extra paper napkins and a potato skin to hide them in.


Oh Happy Dog Day

I came home from Trader Joe’s today with a special dog Advent calendar. Shay somehow knew it was for her. How? She has never had an advent calendar before? She is a church going dog and sits on many committees as all good Presbyterians do, but she has not made advent a priority in her life.

Well, times have changed. She looked at the advent calendar and looked at me and sniffed right on the number one door. Okay, it’s not December 1st yet, but it is 2020, so I let her open the first door and have the treat – Two salmon and sweet potato coins. She was quite happy with her haul.

And like all good Presbyterians, she did not ask for more. She knows that she must wait until tomorrow to have the honor of opening the number 2 door.

As she will finish her advent calendar well before Christmas I am going to have to either skip some days or come up with a second calendar. We shall see if she remembers to ask for her treat everyday. She’s pretty smart so I think she will be demanding it.


Russ to the Rescue

I ordered 6 yards of garden mix soil last week. When I did I had to pick a delivery date, so I said Monday. Late yesterday afternoon my soil guy pulled up, the same guy who delivered 28 yards of fill dirt to me a month ago. “Nice job,” he told me as he surveyed all that I had done since his last visit. I proudly accepted his compliment and told him I was looking forward to finishing this project for the winter.

When I scheduled the delivery I had no idea that we were expecting many days of rain starting tomorrow. So yesterday after the driver expertly dumbed the beautiful black soil right were I needed it I started shoveling.

I would fill our big yellow wheel barrow about three quarters full with soil because that was about all I could lift and still be able to push the wheel barrow through the gravel driveway and into the garden. I had left two feet between every raised bed which was just enough to maneuver the wheel barrow around the garden.

I started filling the fourteen inch high garden beds. It took many loads just half way fill one bed. After a few hours yesterday I had to stop because I was losing the light. With impending rain on Wednesday I knew that I had to finish all the filling by today. I thought it was doable.

I was out in the driveway shoveling and dumping, by 8:15 in the morning. I had taken a preemptive Aleve knowing this was going to be hard work. I kept at it all day. Taking sitting breaks every hour when I would cut the garden fabric I was using to line the inside joints of the garden beds.

I worked and worked calculating I had made 150 trips of the wheel barrow based on my step count of 22,000 by 4:30. The light was beginning to wain. I still had a big pile of dirt and my back was causing me to slow down. A little bit after 5:00 Russ came outside and said he had postponed a work call to help me. I burst into tears from exhaustion.

Together in the dark we worked another 45 minutes and got most of the work done. We had reduced the pile to the point that we could cover the remaining dirt with tarps so in a few days when the rain stops I can finish.

For the most part every bed in 90% full. I am going to need these rainy days to recover physically, but the worst of this job is over.


Science is Back

Regardless of who you voted for it is good news that Biden had created a Covid task force full of smart Professionals in the Science fields. Even if you voted for Trump, you too will benefit from people who use science and might actually be able to end this pandemic.

The exciting news from Pfizer about the successful phase II trial of their vaccine is the second best news of the month of November. We still have to wait for the safety tests and hopefully those too will go well. Setting us up to vaccinate the whole country or at least the smart people who believe in science.

Sadly, science could not save Alex Trebeck any longer. Pancreatic cancer is still tough. Hopefully when we get through this pandemic we can go back to fully funding our government backed research on things like cancer and climate change. We have a lot of big issues facing the world that have been put on hold the last four years. Science matters. To all you scientists who have felt threatened, come out of the darkness and enlighten the rest of us on what you discover. We need you, we appreciate you.


The Supervisor

Shay and her constant companion Russ are never far apart. For the last nine months we have called Shay the supervisor, because she is by Russ’ side 24 hours a day. She has beds strategically spread out around his home office so she can crack the work whip from every vantage point.

Weekends are a little different. Russ still works all-day, everyday, but does not have to sit at his desk on Zoom calls. Shay has figured out that on Weekends she can dictate which of her beds she would like to supervisor from. When she can, she likes to spend time on her favorite big bed in the kitchen and has taken to forcing Russ to work from that bed.

These photos were taken on different days, but they tell the story of the iron fist of the supervisor perfectly. I have a feeling that when Russ is finally able to go back to the office the supervisor is going to demand a few new beds at the office. Russ has really let this new found power she has go to her head.


46 is My New Favorite Number

At last we have the answer to the question of who is going to lead our country for the next four years. Congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. This is a historic moment. What I am most looking forward to is having a President whose integrity is not something I am constantly having to worry about based on what he is tweeting. Actually, I am mostly hoping that we no longer have any government by Twitter. Secondly, I am looking forward to leaders who don’t make every issue about them.

From the moment that 45 opened his mouth at his inauguration I was shocked about how he only voiced any care for people who voted for him. Since it was the very first public office he had held he had no understanding of the difference between running for office and governing. Sadly, that instinct never changed. He saw us as a country of people who were either with him or against him. It didn’t have to be that way and this is the huge difference I see between 45 and the new and improved 46.

If 45 had prevailed the idea that there are winners and losers would have continued. That is not the way it should be in America. We should be able to disagree on points, but no one should be considered a loser. Government should not be playing a zero sum game.

With Biden the good news is he does not treat people who disagree with him as losers. Even if you didn’t vote for him, he is going to try to run the country in a way that does not make you feel less than. Your candidate might not have won, but you are not a loser with Biden.

We have to get back to a place where honesty and humility are valued. We have to get back to a place where we work together for the common good. There is no more important time than during a global pandemic to have Joe work to heal our nation.

Reading some tweets today from Trump voters I had to laugh. When a guy wrote, “With Biden as President I am going to have to move to Mexico to save my children.” Oh the irony. Or the man who tweeted, “My children literally have not had any food. How can we survive without President Trump.” Did this guy not understand that he was the President while his children were hungry?

I am not expecting all our citizens to get smarter, especially these tweeters, but I am hoping that we can get kinder. It is time to turn the temperature down. It’s time to have an America where your President does not look at half of our fellow citizens as losers. Congratulations to Joe and Kamala. I look forward to the team you build that looks like America.


Sunrise at Lowe’s

How do I pass the time waiting for election results all the while Covid is growing? I wake up early and make my list of needed hardware for the day. Then I go off to my Lowe’s. Yes, I am claiming the south Durham Lowe’s as my own.

I know men and women who work in lawn and garden, hardware, plumbing, lumber and especially customer service by name. They know me by my project and ask to see photos of my progress.

I refuse to go to a restaurant and eat there, but I will go and push my cart throughout the whole Lowe’s store, steering more than six feet from all other people. Today I had to buy two carbon Monoxide detectors for the building at church I am working on. Ted, one of my regular Lowe’s helpers, asked me why I needed those for my garden? I had to laugh.

Today as I was finishing up installing the irrigation system I got a little teary. I think I am done with things they sell at Lowe’s, at least for a while. Now I am awaiting garden soil delivery and then I will search out wood chips. Then my garden will be set and ready to go into winter hibernation, awaiting early spring planting.

Thank you Lowe’s for keeping me busy and occupied. If we don’t get results soon I may have to come up with a new project. Anything other than cleaning out the attic.


Biding My Time

As the counting of the votes continues I needed an activity to take me away from what I can not control. So I started building the irrigation system in my garden. Working with PVC pipe is almost as fun as legos. I am thankful for my life of solving puzzles and Carter’s childhood of a million Thomas the train pieces I put together.

It was a perfect day here weather wise so being out in the soon-to-be garden was glorious. I cut PVC and glued joints, creating my future self-watering system. While I worked I listened to an Audible book Russ had in our library, “HI Bob” Bob Newhart talks to younger comedians. It was the perfect way to occupy my time.

I got the hardest part done, digging the trenches. Then I tackled the second hardest part creating the complicated pipes at the start of the run. Eventually I started to lose light so I left the half finished system. I realized I need to take stock of my pvc right angles and “T” pieces and go purchase a few more before I start up again tomorrow.

Doing something I have control over is my best remedy for the waiting. Listening to funny stuff also helps. The funniest thing I heard was a story a Bob told about his best friend Don Rickles’ wife talking about going to buy burial plots. When she told Bob they had bought eight plots Bob asked her why eight since they needed 7 for their family. She replied, “Don doesn’t want anyone next to him.” My telling doesn’t do it justice, but it struck me as hysterical. So much for biding my time.


The Day After

It may be the day after the election and as of this writing we don’t know who won, but what we do know is that the Coronavirus is still here. In almost every state the numbers are going up and by a lot. Now is the time we need to double down and wear masks. If everyone would just do that religiously we could stop offering this virus so many host bodies to keep it alive.

Thankfully there are no more reasons to hold rallies. Lord knows how many people got sick from going and standing close together with other non-mask wearers. But you don’t have to do that anymore.

Thanksgiving may be coming, but go on and cancel it. This way you don’t have to sit next to that annoying uncle who voted differently than you did. Stay home. Eat a chicken with some stuffing. You know the stuffing is the only reason you want a Turkey anyway.

It is getting dark early and it is getting colder. You don’t need to go to a restaurant to eat there. Take out is fine. Come home and really enjoy that meal without fear of Covid.

Now that we no longer have political ads on TV you can go back to watching. Being home alone with 500 channels is a better idea than being out catching and then spreading the virus.

Someone who shall remain nameless said that as soon as the election was over, “poof” we would no longer be concerned about the virus. That person was wrong. The virus is growing stronger. Almost every state is seeing a huge growth is cases and deaths.

We no longer need to make the virus political. The political races are done. So stop pretending it is not real or deadly. Fight the virus like you fought for your candidates.

America succeeds when we have a common enemy to fight. Your fellow citizens are not your enemy, the virus is. Let’s kick 2020 in it’s butt and stop the exploding spread. Do your part. Wear a mask when you go out. Wash your hands. Socially distance and just stay home as much as you can. I think that being able to return to normal is something we can all agree we want.


Trying to Manifest a Blue Wave

I knew I couldn’t sit around today. I volunteered to do one more push of ballot curing. Letting people who mailed in ballots that were rejected know so they could go to the polls. I dressed all in blue to act as a human blue wave. It was just one more subliminal way to get the message out.

I was given fifteen names of people in Durham and I went to parts of the city I had never visited before. I had elderly African American women, a young Indian mother, a new mom with a five day old baby, I had a senior citizen couple of Chinese descent and a public school teacher who was teaching on zoom. Those were the people I was able to catch at home. I went to two houses where the people obviously had not been home in the last week because mine was not the first door hanger letting them know their ballot had been rejected. Sadly their votes will probably not be counted.

What I have learned from this election is the best thing you can do is vote in-person early if you are able. Mail in ballots, while technically a valid option, depend on the voter doing absolutely everything perfectly as well as counting on the USPS to be infallible. The new mother I visited was frustrated because she and her husband had hand delivered their ballots and his was accepted and stamped as hand delivered and her was mistakenly stamped as delivered in the mail and therefore was somehow disqualified since it did not have a postmark. The new mother did not know this at the time of drop off. It was human error, but human error happens.

I think if I have learned anything at all it is that voting is a right and a privilege others before me worked to ensure for me. It is only right that I continue that work to ensure that those who come after me have that same right. Democracy is not gravity, it does not just automatically happen. It must be continually fought for. Here’s to a good fight and a decent America.


An Important Read

My tiny book club met this evening via Zoom to discuss a wonderful book of importance right now. We read Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warm of Other Suns, bestseller about the great migration. Given where the country is with Black Lives Matter it seemed like a good idea to try and understand this seminal event in America.

Although I was aware that Blacks left the south and migrated north I had no idea that it happened continuously over a ninety year period, making it not so much an event as an eventuality. Wilkerson, a scholar, spent years interviewing people who had made the migration and settled on telling the story through the lives of three different people. She turns the non-fiction history into a readable novel like book.

As a white woman, who grew up in Connecticut I have little personal frame of reference to understand the African American experience. Of course I have studied history of the American south and knew about Jim Crow laws, but this book brings to life all that it meant to African Americans who lived under it and why they escaped looking for something better. Better was only relative because although they migrated North, discrimination was never far behind.

It was heartbreaking to learn about how in Chicago blacks could only rent places to live in one skinny area of the city and they paid rents that were double what whites paid for places much nicer and larger. When they wanted to move to a better neighborhood, there was no where else to go, no matter how much money they had.

The one thought that ran through my head as I read about one indignity after another is that I can’t imagine enduring such blatant unfairness at every turn and keep taking it without lashing out. If you don’t understand why Black Lives Matter is an important movement you need to read this heartfelt book.

Life may not be fair, but for some they never have a chance to just get par, let alone get ahead. We can never truly walk in each other’s shoes, but we should at least try and understand.


Did You Mail in Your Ballot?

Voting is more important this year than ever. With Covid many of you requested mail-in ballots. For the most part mailing in your ballot is safe, as long as you mailed it in time. But there are still stories of people who mailed their ballots in plenty of time, but it was not received in time.

You need to make sure that your ballot arrived at your city’s election office. If you live in North Carolina you can go to this website to check on that status of your ballot.https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/ You enter your name and county and you should find your name. Once you click on it scroll down to the bottom link for absentee ballots. If you sent one in and it was processed and accepted it will tell you that.

It you mailed one and they don’t have it you will see nothing about an absentee ballot.

If there was a problem with your ballot, like the signature was not accepted it will say it was not accepted.

In the case of no ballot or an unaccepted ballot you need to go vote on Tuesday. You will not be voting twice since your mail-in ballots was not registered. If by chance it comes in after the election it will just be discarded if you voted in person.

I know that you chose to do a mail in ballot for a good reason, but if it did not get there please go to your regular polling place on Tuesday. With so many people early voting the lines on Election Day should not be too long. Please don’t skip voting. This is the most important election in our lives and North Carolina is a swing state.

If you have questions about your North Carolina mail in ballot you can call this hotline any they can help you. The number is 1-833-868-3462. We are right at the finish line. Let’s do it string North Carolina.


Rare Halloween Trifecta

Today is not just Halloween. It is a Halloween and a full moon at the same time. Now let’s make it a trifecta, It is Halloween with a full moon on a Saturday. What could be more special than that? The last time this happened was 1944, during World War II. Not sure anyone was trick or treating that night either. So a World War, a pandemic, seems like the trifecta of Halloween is just plain bad luck.

The good news is the next time that October 31 is on a Saturday and there is a full moon is 2172. That’s 152 years from now. Although it seems like it makes the perfect Halloween, it appears to be nothing but bad luck to have this trifecta. So I am glad that not only will I not be around, but neither will my child and if I have any grandchildren, they probably won’t be either in 2172. I just don’t want anyone I will ever know in my whole lifetime to have to endure a Halloween like this one. I am not even counting the election is this mess.

In the future Halloween could be moved to permanently be celebrated on the last Saturday in October, which would make so much sense. If that is the case, then we certainly could have a Halloween trifecta much sooner than 2172. But considering how the last two have turned out I am not sure it is something we should wish for.

The good news is this is the first year in 25 that I have not bought and therefore consumed any Halloween Candy. Instead of getting ready for trick or treaters, I made six of my eight raised garden beds. They are actually very spooky because they look like giant coffins in a fenced in grave yard.

I hope when I wake up in the morning there are no skeletons in the boxes. This being 2020 I am not counting that out.


I’m Getting Good at Screwing…

boards together. Where did you think I was going with that? This isn’t that kind of blog. It’s free.

After test screwing yesterday I went into full on production work today. I made one whole raised bed that was 8 foot by 2 foot, but found that once I had it all together it was too heavy for me to lift off the saw horses by myself. Thankfully Russ had a minute between calls to help me move it.

Since he is working twenty hours a day I don’t like to ask him to help me, but I see I am going to need his help this weekend as he will only have work, but no zooms. So to keep moving forward I made the long panels of the raised beds which involved fastening two eight or ten foot board together with a brace in the middle and a brace on each end, which the short two foot pieces will be attached to.

Besides the fully assembled box I made, I completed the long sides for four more boxes. I went to cut the end pieces but found I was not as good with the circular saw today as I was yesterday. I will need to ask Russ what I am doing wrong. But after five hours of screwing I was pretty much done and now need to recover.

Hopefully I will be all done screwing by Sunday and can move on to laying…

Pipe for my irrigation system. Really, haven’t you learned your lesson yet?


TV Eventually Pays Off

When I was a kid I would sometimes get in trouble for watching too much TV. It was really rich since my parents gave me a tiny black and white Sony TV for Christmas when I was 12. I think they just didn’t want my adolescent self around the rest of the family.

Some of what I used to watch was actual crap, ie: the Brady Bunch or the Partridge family, but some was quite educational. I learned quite a lot from the French Chef, Julia Child and I use all that knowledge to this day.

When I met Russ I started watching This Old House with him faithfully. Not only did we watch the current seasons, but we would watch past seasons. This year This Old House turns 40 and I estimate I have seen every episode at least three times.

For as much crap as I used to take for watching TV I am happy to say that This Old House paid off. Today, after the wind and rain of Zeta passed by I decided to start building the raised beds for the garden. It was late in the day, but I wanted to test out my design. So I got out all the needed power tools, the circular saw and the impact driver and set up the saw horses in the driveway and went to work. I happily clamped together my cedar and drove deck screws into the boards attaching them to another piece of wood to act as the corner connectors. Norm Abram would be proud.

Today we have You Tube where you can learn to do most anything, but back in the day it was mostly just PBS. Sure I learned how to change out a toilet, something I hope never to do, but at least I learned that being nice to your plumber pays off in big ways.

For now, I am glad that I can do these things myself. It is next to impossible to find someone who you can pay to do it and then they charge an arm and a leg. Tomorrow I tackle clamping right angles and creating corners. I may need a new tool.


Another Lama Conversation

I was still in my nightgown when Russ looked out the window of his office this morning and said, “Your wood is getting delivered.” I jumped into my clothes and ran outside in time to meet my delivery driver who was already on he piggyback fork lift with my cedar planks on the forks coming down the driveway. I don’t know how they used to deliver construction materials before the invention of the fork lift that could ride on the back of a tractor trailer. It certainly is nice to have my deliveries put in the exact spot I need them.

The driver placed the beautiful wood down and got off the fork lift to hand me my invoice. It should have been a quick job, but he asked me what I was going to use this wood for. That began the long conversation and tour of my garden project.

When I told him that someone suggested I could keep a lama inside the enclosure he told me he used to have a lama. I am so starved for actual conversation with humans that I talked with the driver for a good fifteen minutes. According to him lamas are supposed to live for 25-30 years, but when they get sick they don’t show any signs of feeling bad. I have not verified this information, but found it interesting.

I wish that dogs would live to be 30 years old. It seems like every week I see a posting on Facebook of another friend who has lost their dog. It just is the worst insult in this terrible year to lose your dog too. A few years back I encouraged my Dad to get a dog, but he said he didn’t want to have his dog outlive him. At the rate my Dad is going he could have gotten a dog, not a lama, but at least a hound.

The delivery driver told me he only had his lama seven years because he was older when he got him. He said he still misses him even though he has been gone for years. “Looking at your enclosure is giving me the idea to build one to get a new lama.” I was happy my garden gave someone else an ideal make their lives happier. Oh the conversations I have with strangers during COVID.


Keeping My Mind Off the Election Busy Work

I purposely started this major garden project in September as I was about to lose my mind with this election. The days were going slower than a five year old waiting for Christmas so having a hard labor project seemed like the perfect remedy.

I had timed most of it perfectly. It took me about four weeks to build and fill the garden wall. Another week to build the fence. I finally found a source for the cedar I wanted to build the raised beds and ordered it. Then the supplier delayed my delivery by a couple of days due to not enough delivery drivers.

Rather than move right into that building phase I have had four unscheduled days. I did all the prep work for I could by pre-cutting all the corner supports and dragging twenty-five year old card board out of the attic for the base of the beds. I knew there was a reason I had saved those wardrobe boxes from our last move.

With the days barley eeking by I needed to stay busy or lose my mind looking at data on 538 and rear clear politics. So I used some of the left over block and built a retaining eyebrow next to the driveway where the land sloped down too quickly and thus so did the gravel. I also continued digging up the clay that fell down the alleyway between my garden beds when it got delivered. That sloping path had always been a problem so as I dug up clay I installed steps. I am half way finished with that project, but it is a satisfying one.

I also installed the bunny gates on the backside of the garden. One of the frustrating things about this project is not being able to source the exact fencing I designed.

The fence is to keep out two types of critters, deer and bunnies. Bunnies need tightly woven fence of one inch or less openings and deer need sturdy fence. I wanted heavy gauge wire with large openings at the top going down to smaller opening at the bottom. This does not exist in four four heights. Why? So I had to make my own by putting two fences together. Since I did not want to run two fences on the back side which is four feet off the ground to start I just put little gates so bunnies would not hop on the little runway and slip in under the back.

This project is all about the details. Russ wants me to put a sign on the gate. I balked at those horrible router carved wood signs. I have a feeling designing the sign and what it might say will take me longer than designing the whole rest of the project. Off to Pintrest for inspiration. It’s a good way to keep my mind off the election.


The Rules Should Apply To Everyone

When five people who work as closely with Pence as possible come down with COVID the rules say that he should quarantine. As the head of the Covid task force he knows this. So what does he do? He goes out to an in-person rally and uses the excuse that he is an essential worker. Even essential workers have to quarantine, but Pence is anything but essential at a political rally, let alone ever.

Yes, he and mother both tested negative, initially, but as we all know you don’t always test positive right away. Thus the need for quarantining. I am so tired of people thinking the rules that are for the good of us all do not apply to them.

Kansas had an excellent case study in mask wearing. The state allowed each county to decided if they were going to mandate wearing masks. 20 Counties of the 105 decided they would have a mask mandate and the others did not. Based on cell phone data people in both kinds of counties went out an equal amount of time over the months of the study. But no shock to me, the counties with the mask mandates had half the number of infections.

It could not be more clear that wearing masks and following the rules to quarantine if you are exposed can dramatically cut down on the spread of Covid. If you look at Covid data by state the places that have no mask mandates have higher percentages of infections. Take North Dakota, the worst state to live in if you don’t want to get Covid. They have no mask mandate and their infection rate is 50 people out of 1,000 in North Dakota have already had Covid. It is not like people in North Dakota even live that close to each other. They had to really work to catch the virus.

Just so you can compare, in Vermont it is 3 people out of 1,000 have had Covid. Even in NY a state that was the epicenter of the virus at first has a rate of 27 out of 1,000. In NY they took seriously wearing masks and have gotten their spread way down.

So wear a mask if you go out. Sign up for your states Covid Tracking App. In NC it is called Slow Covid NC. Go find it in the App Store and install it on your phone. And for God’s sake, if you come in contact with someone who tests positive, don’t be a Pence, quarantine. It’s your civic duty.


Yard Sign Time

As you drive around it seems as if everyone has a yard sign or two, a flag or banner declaring their allegiance to a candidate or party. Then there are the “black lives matters”signs and the “I believe in Science…”. Then there are the snarky signs, BYE DON, with a wisp of yellow hair. So many signs declaring so much. Some of them I am happy to see, but others trouble me to know such things about a neighbor or friend.

Our church decided we wanted to get in on the sign game. We have a church Motto which our former Pastor Hayward Holderness declared for us any years ago. Micha 6.8- “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

We simplify it to the essence, Do Justice, Love Kindness and Walk Humbly. It fairly much tells you everything our church is about. So what better could we put upon a yard sign than those words. It this time of such divisiveness it is nice to have a reminder of what is important.

Although we don’t have in-person church services during COVID we did have a drive through day this afternoon to make our stewardship pledges and pick up a yard sign if you wanted one. Russ and I had made our pledge online, but we wanted a sign.

We may not have a sign for a candidate, or an ideology, but I feel that this sign speaks volumes about what we really believe. It also clearly indicates who we voted for, whose lives we think matter and even that science matters. We didn’t have to put a snarky sign out, even though I adore them. I don’t have to piss off my neighbors who don’t believe what we believe, because we love kindness.

I hope to have leaders at every level who also believe these things. Not just in a biblical way, like some evangelicals who can quote the Bible, but don’t live it. I want leaders who live these things. It seems like a small standard to hold any of us to.


Dickinson Day

After spending most of the day working on my garden project I took a break late this afternoon to have a call with a young woman who is thinking about going to my alma mater, Dickinson College. I welcomed this call. Any chance to get to talk about the college I loved attending is a good day for me. It was also a chance to sit down and think rather than do back breaking work.

We started the call with her asking me what were my reason’s for choosing Dickinson. I told her it boiled down to feeling I got from the people I met when I visited and the people I knew who went there. I went on to tell her that those people I got to know while I was there are still some of my favorite people on earth. Some were great friends with me while I was there and some have become great friends since we left, but there is something about how Dickinson chooses people and curates each class that is special.

We talked for an hour. I told her of my self-paced bowling class I started just so I could get that final PE credit to graduate, and my summer study abroad in France because I was terrible at languages and I figured it was the only way I could fulfill my language requirement. Mostly what I told her about were my friends and my professors who became my friends, and people I hardly knew at school, but became my friends later and how they turned out to be interesting and successful and nice people. I can hardly think of a person I went to college with who I would not like to spend time with today and I am don’t always like everyone.

As I listened to why she was interested in Dickinson I was thrilled that she highlighted many of the things that I felt made it special. The welcoming belonging feeling you get when you visit. The sincerity of the warmth of the people. The broad cross sections of interests of the people. It’s the people. Yes, it is a beautiful old campus, with great Professors who get to know you as a student, but also as a person.

After a pleasant hour on phone we hung up. I came inside and Russ had the Bruce Springsteen special on Apple TV playing. Bruce was the soundtrack of my years at Dickinson. It was as if I was transported back forty years dancing to Rosilita. What a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Sending hugs out to my Dickinson brethren. I miss you all.


Fall Flavors Pasta Bake

It may have been almost eighty degrees here today, but we wanted fall flavors. So I put together all our favorites into one yummy dish. I wanted a really sage filled sausage so I made it myself with ground pork and it was yummy. I will include my sausage recipe here, but you can make this easier if you just buy a sage breakfast sausage. Just add a few of the spices I put in my sausage into the dish if you use store bought sausage.

Sausage

1 pound ground pork

1T. Garlic powder

1T. Fennel seeds

1 t. Anise seeds

1/2 t. Paprika

1/4 t. Cayenne pepper

1 T. Salt

1 T. Ground black pepper

2 T. Ground sage

3 pinches of red pepper flakes

In a dry fry pan put the fennel and anise seeds and toast on medium heat until they start they smell. Using a mortar and pestle grind them up.

Mix all the spices with the pork.

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced in 3/4 inch cubes

2 fennel bulbs, sliced thinly

Giant bag of baby spinach

1 T. Oil

1/2 t. Nutmeg

1 pound of rigatoni

1 cup of Quattro formagi Trader Joe’s cheese

1/2 c. Grated gruyere

1 cup grated Parmensan

Preheat oven to 450°. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and spray with Pam. Lay out butternut squash in single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 25 minutes, until the squash starts to turn brown. When cooked put a pinch of nutmeg on squash.

Put a big pot of water on the stove to cook the rigatoni according to package directions less one minute. Don’t put the rigatoni in water until you have started the fennel.

In fry pan, crumble up sausage and cook on medium heat until done, about seven minutes. Remove the meat from the pan,leaving the oil. Place the meat in a greased 9×13 baking dish.

Add the fennel to the fry pan that has the sausage grease in it and add oil. Cook fennel until wilted, about ten minutes on medium high heat. Salt and pepper the fennel and add to the meat in the baking dish.

Using the same fry pan put the spinach in and cover and heat for 30 seconds and remove from heat still covered until the spinach wilts. Sprinkle with a touch of nutmeg and add to the baking dish. It may take two batches to wilt all the spinach.

Add the rigatoni and the butternut squash to the baking dish and toss everything together. Add the Quattro formagi and the gruyere and toss. Sprinkle the Parmensan on top.

Reduce the oven heat to 300° and bake for 20 minutes, tenting with foil half way through.


Pin-Up Calendar?

Twice this week I received this e-mail from Melania Trump titled, “The Official 2021 Trump Calendar.” I want to know who in the Trump organization thought it was a good idea to have the woman who used to pose nude for a living offer a calendar? I am of an age when I had to endure calendar’s of nude women hanging up in mechanic’s garages when I went to get my oil changed in my car. I never quite understood how it was OK to display those in public places. So when a former nude model offers a calendar that is the first thing that comes to mind.

Of course that might be exactly what many of the misogynist supporters of this President might like and even expect. It is just so bold to offer a calendar for a year that might not be your year, but I have a feeling many Trump supporters will go to their graves loving him. They have to, to stand by a man who can lie more than fifty times a day, according to the Fact Checker team at the Washington Post.

This photo I like, seeing their backsides as they get out of Washington

Now if Melania were offering Trump Dart Boards that might be a product I could get behind and one that could stir up some good rumors about her and her husband’s relationship. For now it’s just calendars. Now that I think of it, no where does she say they are not nude photos, but I don’t EVER want to see a photo of the Donald without a suit on. It’s bad enough just to see him in golf clothes.


Garden Project Halfway Done

Planning out this garden project I chunked it into four sections. The first was expanding the flat surface by 100 percent by building a forty foot retaining wall that was four feet high. This was the most physical part of the project, the most boring and the one I did mostly alone. The building was not that boring, but the shoveling the clay fill dirt was hell. I calculate I shoveled 72,000 pounds thanks to the rainy days soaking the dirt.

The second phase of the project was building the garden enclosure. After looking at hundreds of Pintrest pages of garden fences I designed what I thought would serve me well that I could do myself. I purchased the materials and had a church friend come and help me build it. We did the posts in one day, cementing 13– 10 foot four by fours around the perimeter. We framed it another day. On the third day we attached the wire which included 2×4 inch big wire to keep deer out and 1x 1 bunny wire that runs into the ground. David also built the garden gate on the third day. The fourth day he came back for a couple hours just to do a little finish work to give the enclosure a look that was a step up from a deer fence.

Now that it is done I have had some suggestions about what I can use the enclosure for besides a garden. It could be a chicken coop, a home for a lama, a Christmas village, and the worst suggestion was an internment camp.

I still have to do a little leveling of the fill dirt, but it does not have to be perfect. I still have two more major jobs to do. First, build the raised beds. I am on the search for cedar wood and once I get the right dimensional lumbar I can build those. Then install the irrigation system I have designed. That will involve more digging and actual plumbing. I think I can handle that.

Once all that is done I will have to fill the beds with the right garden soil mix and cover the pathways between the beds with wood chips. So despite my excitement for having the wall and fence done I am still a long way from being done.

A couple of side projects have crept up while I was building. I need to build steps out of block into the the slope next to the garden. I constructed a compost bay since I will need lots of compost for this garden and I may add an additional bay to it and I need to lay some slate for the entrance to the garden. I hope it is not an early or cold winter because I am going to be working on this everyday for a while. At least I have the hardest parts done.


A Surprise in The Mail Today

When my Aunt and Uncle moved into my grandparent’s farm house they also got all the furnishing in the house. There was not much that other people might want, like the metal cots that my father and his brother slept in as children. They were such horrible beds the grandchildren christened them “the dread bedz”. Thankfully as the oldest grandchild I usually scored a different bed, one with a bottle of Old Grandad turned into a lamp next to it. Like I said, not a lot of things anyone would want.

Today my Aunt sent me a package that contained two little cookbooks that had been my grandmother’s, which were part of the contents my Aunt inherited. The cookbooks are little spiral bound books that were handmade. One was a Pawleys Island cookbook put together by All Saints Waccamaw Church. All Saints used to be an Episcopal Church for hundreds of years. When I was a child sometimes we would visit it when we were at Pawleys. Sadly All Saints left the Episcopal church in 2004 to become an Anglican Church of the crazy fringe far, far right. Thankfully the cookbook is from the good old days of the church.

The other cook book is one I am most excited to have. It is from the Tip Top Inn on Pawleys Island. Tip Top was an Inn three doors down from my Aunt Haidee’s house. If you stayed there you got three meals a day included in you room and board. My father would sometimes finagle a table for us to eat one meal there during our vacation as we stayed at our house and not at Tip Top. As non lodgers the only table we might get was the staff table in a tiny side room away from all the fancy guests.

The food was made by the superior African American women who ran the kitchen. These ladies could really cook. I know that the owner Mrs. Dingle put together the cookbook, but I am certain the recipes are just suggestions of what the real cooks made.

It was a good thing we didn’t stay at Tip Top because if you ate all your meals there for two weeks you would easily gain fifteen pounds. Here is a sample of one day’s menu.

My Aunt wrote me that now I am the keeper of these books, but it will be up to me to pass them on to one of my family members who spent the summer at Pawleys with me every summer. I am happy to do that, but first I want to make the deviled crab, which was my favorite Tip Top dish. Thanks Aunt Janie for these precious gifts.


Staying Busy is Good For Me

For the last five weeks I have been working on increasing my garden and fencing it in. As the many neighbors and friends who walk by I hear a lot of comments of encouragement and many questions about why I am doing this myself. One reason I decided to do this myself is because I can. For the record I built the wall by myself with a little help moving blocks from Brandon and Russ, but the actual building was all me. I also moved over 22 yards of fill dirt myself. But I have had the great aid and expertise of David McQuaid to help me build the fence.

I designed the fence and showed David what I wanted. One of the reason I hired him is he was OK with my working with him. I wanted to have my hands on every aspect of this project. He took me literally and I have been a full on carpenter with him. Thankfully he did not make me use the pneumatic nail gun when I told him I would rather not do that.

Spending all day as a full on carpenter is exhausting. David and I framed out the whole fence today and it is ready for wire tomorrow. I am so thankful for his help.

As I thought about why I felt the need to do this it came to me. This project has saved my sanity during the last few weeks of the election. I am not sure I could handle having an idle mind right now. When I work on the project alone I listen to books and when working with David we listen to the radio on a station that plays stuff from my high school years.

I am going to be happy to have something tangible for COVID. Next summer when I am harvesting my crop of vegetable from my new garden I will thank God for the time I had to build the new garden. Being very busy is the best thing I can do right now.


Furnace Came On Today

It has been many months since we have needed heat, but this morning our furnace turned on as the temperature inside the house reduced to the level requiring heat. That familiar smell of the dust burning off the burners in the furnace was the first sign that winter is coming.

The heat was only on long enough to break the chill, but not actually warm the house up too much. The real sign that summer is over was my need for a blanket for my feet while I watched a movie this afternoon. I know that today was the coldest day and that it will be warmer this week, but I see our outdoor life dwindling in the next few weeks.

Normally I am tired of hot weather and looking forward to the cooler temps, but not this year. With Covid we have enjoyed seeing people outdoors. I am not exactly looking forward to those days like March when we stayed hidden away, alone in our own homes. As the rates of infection have shot up I am not letting up on my safety protocols, so I am hoping that fall stretches out for a very long time.

It seems like Mother Nature could throw us a bone on the temperature given all the other crap she has given us this year. Not that I am encouraging global warming, just a nice long drawn out fall like we used to have in the last century.

So here’s to staying warm. I hope you did not need your heat today. I don’t own a fire pit, but maybe when I’m done with the garden project I could get to work on that. Hummmm, wonder where I could put it?


Door-To-Door Skills

Girl Scout Cookies, Burbee seeds, Avon Products, Electrolux Vacuums, Warner -Amex Cable TV all things I sold door-to-door between the ages of seven and 20. I was trained by my Republican father to be a door-to-door selling machine. When I sold cable television I was the franchise expert at selling to the elderly. A lifetime’s of training just to get me ready for today.

Yesterday I voted. Since I am only allowed to vote once, despite what 45 encourages, I felt the need to do more. So I attended a zoom training for Fight for NC to help ensure that all Joe ballots get counted. In NC many absentee ballots get rejected for many arcane reasons. Voters who send in a ballot by mail is supposed to be notified so they can fix the mistake and have their vote count. Each county puts out a list daily of the ballots that are being disqualified.

So today I was given a list of 12 people to go to visit at their home and tell them, first of all that their ballot is disqualified, in case the county had not told them yet and then instruct them on how to fix it. The list I was given was for people in Butner, Creedmoor and Stem, which was a thirty minute drive just to get there.

The good news is with Covid, almost everyone was at home so I was able to talk to 10 of the 12 people I was assigned. The two who were not home had other family members there so I told them. Everyone was as nice as they could be from the old ladies in mobile homes to the couple in a big house. A few had already corrected their ballots, but some had no idea their ballots had been rejected and agreed to go to early voting to fix it.

Of the places I went Stem was the most beautiful country side, Creedmoor had the most Trump signs and I was disappointed I did not have time to stop at the Butner Correctional facility and see if I could speak with Bernie Madeoff. He can’t vote anyway so it would have been a waste of time. If I was not so pressed for time I would have stopped at the Southern States Store in Creedmoor to see if they had any baby chicks.

I may only get to vote once, but helping other people make sure their vote gets counted sure felt good. I am certain that when my father trained me to sell things door-to-door he never imagined that this is what I would use those skills for, but boy am I glad I have them to use for good.

The most disappointing flag I saw was on a house in the middle of Creedmoor. I couldn’t stop and take a photo of it, but I found a photo of it online. I don’t think I had ever seen an official presidential advertisement that used the word Bullshit in it. I can only imagine what parents of young ones have to say as they drive by this house. It is just so unpresidential, and at the same time so laughable because I have never heard so much bullshit out of any person, let alone President, as I have out of Trump for the last three and a half years.

Flag I saw on a house. I could read it two ways.

If you want to go door to door, or answer phones let me know and I can put you in touch with the Fight for NC people who are really nice. This is not the year just to hope things go right.


Home School Help

I am so thankful that I don’t have to teach my child at home. I still have nightmares about just helping her study for the Dynasty section of seventh grade history.

If you live locally and are pulling your hair out and think you need help I have a solution for you. A friend of ours, Burke Beatty is moving back to the area and is looking for teaching jobs. Since he is off cycle to become a high school history teacher he is available to help teach your kid or kids or a pod of kids.

Burke was a member of the national honors society at Carrboro high school and went to Bates College in Maine. He graduated four years ago with a major in French and Francophone studies and a double minor in history and film media studies. Going to a great liberal arts college like Bates means he had to study everything, so he can handle your stay at home school kids subjects.

Teaching has been Burke’s goal job, but he spent the last three and half years as a master scuba dive trainer in Hawaii because you can only do something like that when you are young. If he can teach people how to do things underwater, he can help a kid with zoom school.

Burke got Covid early on and now has a positive anti-body test and is willing to be tested for Covid anytime. He told me that getting Covid was rough and he is very serious about not getting it again. Covid safety is his big priority.

While at Bates, Burke worked in the admissions office and during his senior year he was one of the fifteen senior admissions fellows who interviewed prospective students for Bates. If you have a junior or or senior student who would like to practice interview you might want to contact Burke.

If you are interested in talking with Burke about working with your kids he can be reached at 919-923-3516 or beatty.burke@gmail.com. As he has just arrived back here he is fully available, so you can book him for the times you need.

There is only so much togetherness we can have with our children and then everyone needs a break from each other. Burke could be the answer to your parent/child to much togetherness.


Help Comes to the Rescue

The on going major vegetable garden project continues. Sadly I did not get all the fill dirt spread before we had three inches of rain over the weekend. Since then I have been shoveling very heavy clay to try and level the garden.

My fence building helper, David, came this morning to begin the creation of the Deer fence. It should be called the anti-deer fence. David as the expert builder worked all day by my side as I continued shoveling and filling.

We cemented thirteen ten foot posts into the ground. It was important we get that all done today because rain is due tonight for the next 24 hours. This means I will still be shoveling this weekend to finish the spreading and leveling.

Eight hours of working in the garden is too much for me for one day so I am thankful for a rain day because I don’t think I could do this again tomorrow. I predict I will sleep well tonight.


Join Me To Fight For NC

Did you know that if you sent in an absentee ballot in North Carolina and your signature does not exactly match the one on file from when you first registered your ballot can be disqualified. I don’t know about you, but I am certain my signature has changed a little bit since I first registered in Durham 26 years ago.

In NC if you do a mail in ballot early enough and it gets rejected you can do something called “curing” your ballot, to fix it for whatever reason it was disqualified. There is a group called Fight For NC who is training people to send them out to help people cure their ballots. I am volunteering to do this. The group is supporting democratic voters, so if you want Trump this group is not for you.

The training to learn how to do this is Thursday – Sunday from 7:00 – 8:00PM online. I am doing it Friday night and then will find out how I go help people cure their ballots. If you want to do this in NC you can go to this link. I think the link will let you chose a different day if you want.

I’ve signed up to attend a training with Fight For NC on Friday, Oct 16, 2020. Are you free to join me? Use this link to sign up: https://www.mobilize.us/nc2020victory/event/348138/?referring_vol=3749085&rname=Dana&timeslot=2441331&share_medium=email_link&share_context=email_1

I can’t sit by and let this election happen without my doing everything possible. This may not be for everyone. This group also calls and texts people if that is more your speed. Join me if you feel called to. We need every vote to count.


Chicken Shit

No, this is not a blog about a politician, but composting. As I work to increase the size of my vegetable garden I realize I am going to need a lot more compost. So this is the perfect time to start composting in a big way. Not only will I be making my own good dirt, but I will not be adding to methane emissions at landfills and thus helping to reduce our carbon foot print.

So I am reaching out to any local friends who keep chickens to see if you need to get rid of any of your Chicken shit? I am happy to come pick it up every once in a while. I also could use any old fashioned news paper. We haven’t gotten a real news paper in decades, but if you do I am happy to take a few pre-read issues off your hands, rather than having you recycle it.

Composting is all about balance and I think I will have no trouble creating the “green” portion from vegetable peels and coffee grounds and the the like, but the “brown” portion of tiny twigs, and shredded paper is harder to come by. We hardly create any garbage at our house as it is and this will reduce it to some plastic bags and broken pens.

I have to say I have spent my life trying to get out of shit and now I am in active search of it, but only of the fowl type.


The Good News Is, I Wasn’t Blown Up Today

After three inches of rain this weekend I couldn’t work in my garden today.  Instead I went to Lowe’s and purchased the materials for phase two of my new garden, the fence phase.  Thursday, a fellow church member who builds decks, is coming to help me enclose my vegetable garden so I can stop growing food for wildlife.

Since I was still having guilt over a whole weekend of not working outside I decided I would pull out my zinnia garden on the front of our property whose time had long passed. This was the most successful year of zinnias as we had constant steady rain throughout the summer.  The now spent plants had grown over three feet tall and I was sad to pull them out.

While I was toiling away there were seven men “working” in my neighbor’s yard.  Working is in quotes because most of the time six of them stood around and watched one man run the backhoe.  It was an amazing show of unproductiveness.  I kept working away , pulling out old plants and filling my wheel barrow and moving the dead stalks to my compost behind my house.  

When I came back with an empty wheelbarrow from my first dumping the man in the backhoe jumped down from the machine.  All the other men ran around to the back of my neighbor’s.  The backhoe driver got on phone and walked over to the edge of the road right across from where I was working.  I was wearing my earbuds, listening to a book while I worked so I could not eavesdrop on his conversation.  I kept working.

Another load of the wheel barrow back and forth and then a gas company truck pulled up and three men jumped out.  They scampered around and one of them looked at me and said, “You should probably go inside, these guys hit a gas line.”

Funny, none of those men thought to mention it to me as they ran away to potentially save themselves.  The guy on the phone was 20 feet away from me, you think he could have told me?

I didn’t stick around to look at the name on their trucks, but tomorrow I may do it.  The gas guy came over after all was safe and told me I could resume working near the road.  I asked him if these people had called 811, the number you call for location services before you dig.  He said they had three months ago, but the markings only last two weeks.  He shook his head.  I don’t know who in their right mind digs with a back hoe without knowing where the services are buried.

Thank goodness those seven guys did not blow me up after I have worked so hard on my landscaping.


Rain, Rain, Rain Non-Productiveness

It has been raining mostly non-stop for two days. Doesn’t Mother Nature know I have have a lot of outdoor work. Apparently I can stand quarantine if I am allowed to go outside and work, but being stuck inside looking out over the piles of work I have to do is suffocating to me.

Russ had volunteered to help me do a little shoveling as I only have about 2 of the 20 yards of fill dirt to spread. That offer was too good to be true. He was unable to find an hour of dry time to help. Not that I need him to help me. I am happy to do it myself, but I really don’t need to work in the rain. Plus all this rain has certainly made my clay fill dirt even heavier than it was.

The good news is the rain probably helped with the compression of my fill. Not that I have gone out in rain boots to stamp around on it. Today I got a call from my fence helper, David who told me he would be here Thursday morning and for me to purchase all my fence supplies. Great, another trip to Lowe’s early in the morning so hopefully I can get delivery by Thursday. I need to have finished my grading by then and maybe have moved my leftover block.

At least my garden project is continually moving ahead. As long as the rain, rain, rain stops. I know I was frustrated by rain today because in place of shoveling I mopped bathroom floors. Lord help me to keep my sanity.


Wanting To Appear Rich Is The Problem

Yesterday I read an article in the New York Times that is part of a series about Trump’s finances, based on 20 years of tax returns. The title was, TRUMP ENGINEERED A SUDDEN WINDFALL IN 2016 AS CAMPAIGN FUNDS DWINDLED. I am not interested in rehashing 45’s taxes, but this story highlighted how he was not always as rich as he wanted to portray himself and how he used dubious means to get cash for his campaign.

The picture of 45 is one I have seen over and over again of people who want to appear richer than they are. You probably have some of these people in your neighborhood. They build a house they can’t afford and then when it needs work it sits unfinished or broken because they lived beyond their means. I’m not talking about people who get into financial trouble, just people who like to puff themselves out.

Like 45, those people are not usually generous. When I go looking for donors for a good cause I rarely have any luck with the people who built the gaudiest houses. Even if they want a seat at the table of power they never seem to step up when it comes to helping financially. They have run out of cash trying to appear rich, or richer.

Often times the most generous people are the people who have less to begin with — Those who appear unassuming, but then give outrageously as a percentage of what they have. So many times I have seen this at the food bank. A letter will come in with a check. The note says something like, “You helped me when I needed it, I wish I could give more today,” with a check for $20. If you are someone who needed food from a Food Bank $20 is a huge gift.

I feel like the days of trying to be the showiest are past. If Covid has taught us anything it is that we need to value the simple things. No one is coming to your over leveredged house, or at least they shouldn’t be.

If your goal is to make everyone think you are rich you have the wrong goal. Being rich is great, but worrying about being thought of as rich is toxic. Chasing that image eventually gets you into trouble.


Lamb Curry, the Colonial Way

Back in the mid nineties, when we lived in London, Russ would often ask for a good ‘ole curry for dinner. Sometimes it would be of the Persian persuasion, or the Indian, but often it was a pub version of lamb curry. The pub version was kind of a British mash up from colonial days, and I don’t mean American colonial.

When the days start to get short and the evenings are cool Russ loves it if I tell him I am making him a curry. We don’t have it often because we don’t eat much red meat these days, but when we do I am transported back to London.

Although we lived and worked there for almost five years if feels like those years were a blur. This is probably due the the amount of work and around the world travel we did. It always sounded more glamorous than it was. Work is work no matter where you are doing it.

I traveled way more than Russ as my assignments were all over the place, and he was based almost wholly in London. On the rare times that we were both together in London we almost always worked late and grabbed dinner on our way home. Many nights my Dad was with us and he was always welcomed in our regular haunts because he is the world’s best tipper.

There are a few places I miss like our Fish and chips shop on the way home from Paddington station and our favorite Persian restaurant, Old Delhi. I can never recreate those flavors. But the lamb curry of our “local” The Victoria I can come close to in our kitchen. Basmati rice and Mango and lime chutney help.

I don’t miss working those long hours and sleeping on planes overnight and having to go straight to work upon arrival, but I do miss my British friends. Just having this curry for dinner makes the lack of travel hard. I never should have made such a British dish. I was fine staying home before we had this.

Lamb Curry

1 small bones leg of lamb cut into small chunks (2 1/2 lbs)

4 T. Curry powder

1. T. Ground ginger

2 big sweet onions

5 cloves of garlic

4 T. Oil

4 T. Grated fresh ginger

5 whole allspice

2 T. Fresh thyme leaves

1 seeded jalapeño

1 14 Oz. Can of chopped tomatoes

3 T. Tomato paste

1 14 Oz. Can coconut milk

6 carrots chopped

1 small butternut squash, cubed and roasted

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

Juice of a lime

2 t. Ground cumin

1 t. Turmeric

1 t. Ground coriander

Put the cubed lamb in a bowl and sprinkle 2 T. Curry powder, the ground ginger and 1 T. Salt and 1 T. Black pepper over the meat and stir.

In a blender put one onion, chopped, 2 T. Oil, grated ginger, garlic, jalapeño, thyme a d allspice and blend until nothing is chunky.

Pour the onion sauce over the meat and mix. Cover and let marinate 2-24 hours.

In a Dutch oven, put 2 T. Oil and the remaining curry powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric and heat for less than a minute to just wake up the spices. Add the lamb mixture and Tuen the heat up high and stir often to get some color on the meat, about ten minutes. Add the canned tomatoes including the liquid and the remaining onion chopped. Cook for five minutes. Add the coconut milk and1 t. More of salt, bring to boil and turn the heat down to simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and cook three more minutes, then add all the remaining vegetables and cook for 25 more minutes, with lid on, stirring every once in a while. Add the lime juice at end and taste for salt and pepper.


Exercise Is a By-product of Working Outside

For the last 26 days I have spent most very morning working on my new garden space next to my driveway, close to the road. Because lots of the time I have been hidden by bushes and not using any power tools that make noise I have had the luxury of observing life going by me on the street.

There are a few things I can count on most mornings. A man will walk by with three tiny poodles that don’t walk as a pack, meaning close together heading the same direction, but more like satellite moons to their human, all with their own agendas. Multiple older women will walk by talking on phones, usually through earbuds, much too loudly and I have learned quite a lot of mostly unflattering things about them.

A few people will run by, but since I am at the top of a long low hill the speed of the running really is dependent on which direction they are going. Same for a few cyclists. All runners, cyclists, phone talkers and little poodle walkers never turn their heads to look my way. They are on a mission.

Then there are the people who know me who walk by and either stop to talk or at least wave. They are a fairly regular group and I enjoy getting to take a break and stop shoveling with the idea it would be rude to keep doing it while we talk.

Then there are the packs of women. Sometimes two, but as many as four, sometimes older than me, but often much younger. They are the ones who need to get out of the house and a walk is the only socially acceptable way to visit. Even before Covid there were lots of these packs in the neighborhood.

Last year, my Dad and his farm man Bill came to work work on our property with one of my Dad’s tractors. Bill has lived his whole life in the “country” and not a neighborhood like mine. During the four days Bill and my Dad spent in my yard they witnessed the similar people passing by that I did. One day Bill asked my Dad, “Where are all those people walking to?” My Dad told him they were just out getting exercise, talking a walk.

To Bill, exercise was something you got working and no one he knew had time just to walk nowhere. I realized that as I was outside, digging and lifting and building I was getting way more exercise than I usually do and I was much too tired to consider taking a walk after doing that for a few hours everyday. Walking is an incredibly privileged thing to have time to do, as well as running or cycling.

Most of the other people I have seen regularly pass by me while I have been working are the army of workers who come in the neighborhood everyday to dig, blow, cut, clean and take care of everyone’s yards. I can bet they don’t go out for a walk when they get home after working all day.

As I look around at all the rest of my yard, which a crew comes to cut or blow every week I see lots of places I could work on to improve. I have decided I like working outside as my exercise rather than just walking to nowhere. The sense of productivity makes the working enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, walking is a great way to clear your head and enjoy the day as well as get exercise, but actually building something makes me want to go out and exercise more.


Last Block

I think I laid my last block on my wall this morning. This does not mean I am finished, but not having to move blocks is great news in my book. I estimate I have shoveled about 15-16 of my 20 yards of fill dirt into the wall cavity. That leaves me 4-5 more yards to shovel.

Fill dirt is heavy clay and is hard to shovel. Now that I have already moved the dirt that was closest to the hole into it That leaves me with the dirt that is farther away. I am not quite strong enough to throw the dirt far enough to get it where I want it. I feel a little bit like a prisoner working on a chain gang. I hope that I can finish with the shoveling in the next two days. I am not sure how good I will be at leveling it out. I mostly hope I don’t need to add another course to the wall.

I still have some blocks left and have a few places I need to put them, especially to make some steps next to the garden. I may never be done with building walls, but building steps will be a new challenge to take on.

The completion of the wall does not mean the end of my garden project, just the first third. I still have to build the deer fence and the raised beds, but nothing will be as hard as building the wall.